The Cincinnati Bengals have been bad for a while now. The franchise did have some solid success and consistency at the leadership position under former head coach Marvin Lewis, although he never won a single playoff game in 16 seasons.
Known for having a frugal owner in Mike Brown, the Bengals have never been a team willing to spend big money on free agents. That’s why it’s imperative for them to hit on draft picks, which they’ve done in the past few drafts.
Out With The Old, In With The New
Upon completion of the 2018 season, which saw the Bengals begin 4-1 but lose nine of their last 11 games to finish 6-10, Lewis and ownership mutually agreed to part ways with one season left on his contract.
Taylor Builds From The Bottom
The team’s search for a young, innovative offensive mind led them to former Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Zac Taylor. Taylor was thrust into a no-win situation with a roster that had decent talent but not enough to compete in a division with the Steelers, Ravens and rising Browns.
Quarterback Andy Dalton was serviceable but wasn’t on par with Ben Roethlisberger, Lamar Jackson and even a young Baker Mayfield. Taylor’s first season in 2019 the team went 2-14.
2020 NFL Draft Gifts Franchise QB
The 2020 season was met with optimism as the team landed the No. 1 overall pick, and they used it on NCAA record-setting signal caller Joe Burrow, who was fresh off a national title and Heisman Trophy-winning season. Burrow, an Ohio native, grew up about 2.5 hours from Cincinnati and attended Ohio State as a four-star recruit out of high school. Prior to the 2018 season in Columbus, he lost the starting job to Dwayne Haskins, partly because of injury and play. The transfer to LSU was just what he and the “Bayou Bengals” needed.
Rookie Season Ends With Injury
The Bengals weren’t very good in Burrow’s rookie year. They were floundering at 2-6-1 heading into the game where he tore his ACL and was lost for the season. With a rookie QB and second-year coach still trying to piece things together by adding new talent and moving on from older talent, that’s to be expected. Prior to the season-ending injury, Burrow was on pace to break the rookie passing yards record held by Andrew Luck. Without Burrow the team continued its losing ways and finished 4-11-1. The Bengals would be the only team in the AFC North not to make the postseason or win at least 11 games.
2021 Season Brings New Hope And Weaponry
Coming into the 2021 season there was optimism that they could field a quality football team if they could shore up a porous defense and keep their franchise QB injury-free.
The draft brought them the 2019 Biletnikoff winner for best wideout in college football (Ja’Marr Chase), who was also Burrow’s teammate at LSU.
That and a couple of savvy free agency moves for the defense, and you now have a team that sits at 5-2 and currently the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC playoff picture as Halloween approaches.
Burrow has been the centerpiece of this Bengals explosion. He has an air about him that ESPN “NFL Live” host Laura Rutledge says reminds her of Tom Brady.
If you look at how he conducts his business, Burrow is the only young quarterback who plays with the same throwback swag as Brady. His hunger and refusal to rest on his laurels is also very similar.
“We’re at a place where we haven’t been in a while, haven’t had in a while,” Burrow said in a news conference on Wednesday. “But we’re not satisfied with where we are. We’ve got bigger aspirations than 5-2.”
The 41-17 drubbing they gave the Baltimore Ravens in Charm City, wasn’t supposed to happen, per all the experts who picked Baltimore by two scores. That game, coupled with a 24-10 road win at Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, shows this isn’t the same old Bengals squad of the past.
Career Days For Burrow And Chase
Taylor’s preparation for the Ravens’ blitzing and attacking was second-to-none. A cerebral signal caller like Burrow makes everything flow smoothly.
Burrow addressed the pressure he was facing with a calm and confidence that few quarterbacks in the league — no matter how lauded — possess.
He’s lifting the Bengals to another level without the supporting cast a Lamar Jackson or Justin Herbert might have.
Without the array of All-Pro weapons afforded Patrick Mahomes or Kyler Murray.
“We’ve just got tough, resilient guys that don’t back down under pressure,” Burrow told reporters. “Baltimore puts the most pressure on you of any team that I’ve played in the league. We really responded today.”
Burrow finished his career day with 416 passing yards and three touchdowns, while his rookie wideout Chase finished with 201 yards receiving, including an 82-yard touchdown. The 41 points scored were the most the Ravens have allowed at home since a 2013 loss to the Patriots.
The Bengals are for real, and the reason why they won’t fall off has everything to do with their quarterback, who is not just good but is on the road to being great.
Talented safety Jessie Bates had this to say:
“If you ain’t believing yet, you better start.”
Maybe even Tom Brady great.